Hello, our names are Clara and Rosie and we are two of the new Curatorial Assistants working at Beamish. Here, at the Museum we not only collect interesting objects from the North East, but architectural elements and sometimes entire buildings. As a part of the continued development of the Museum, we were given the task of collecting a potting shed from West Boldon in County Durham. What makes this particular potting shed remarkable is the bricks that it is made from – but more about those later. This would be our first intrepid step into the relocation of an historic building!
After an initial visit to the site, we began a survey of the potting shed. This rather complex process, in which every aspect of the building (down to the gaps between the bricks) had to be measured and recorded- which was a steep learning curve. While Rosie took charge of taking measurements, Clara busily sketched:
But as only Clara was able to understand her sketches, she developed a series of working drawings that looked more like this:
From these we were able to produce much more accurate and detailed architectural plans from which our specialist builders will eventually rebuild the shed at Beamish.
One of the challenges we faced, as part of the Metric generation, was working with a building that was constructed using the Imperial system. We couldn’t just convert its measurements to Metric, as by recording the shed in Imperial, it was easier to understand the building’s design features. For example, the three window spaces each measured 3 ft by 4 ft- much simpler figures to deal with than 0.91440m by 1.2192m. On top of this, we soon discovered that the building had been put together in a haphazard fashion, with wonky walls and mismatched bricks!
Indeed, getting back to those bricks, they were the key to understanding our interest in this seemingly humble potting shed. Written on the bricks was ‘Jones Brothers Pelaw’, which was one of the largest brick manufactures in the North East from 1911 until its closure in 1968. The potting shed had been in the grounds of Ashby House (now Ascot Court) that was built by one of the Jones brothers from the profits of the brickworks. The shed itself looks like it was made using seconds from the brickworks, as the brick ‘specials’ used on the cornices are rather elaborate for a potting shed. We think that it was probably constructed in the 1910s, after the brickworks changed its name to ‘Jones Brothers’, but if anyone has any local knowledge that could provide us with an exact date that would be really useful.
So what next for the West Boldon potting shed? Well, it has now reached Beamish in it’s disassembled state and will in the future be rebuilt to provide our gardening team with an historic setting to work in. Yes, it’s going to remain a potting shed!